I am not small. I am a Greek girl, standing at 5’3 (perhaps 5’2, though I’ll go by what the DMV thinks). I am short, and the distinction is important. As a freshly 23-year-old college grad, I’m supposedly wide-eyed and naïve, and I’m not going to completely deny that. The thing is that I don’t feel small or too naïve, despite what I hear most people telling me. 14 years of Tae Kwon Do under my belt has made me strong, life experience has made me somewhat wiser, and roaming around on my motorcycle has made me bolder. I ride year-round; in the day and the night, in the city or the rolling country hills, on the highway, and sometimes in the grass. I’ll get caught in the rain. I’ve slid around in the snow. I’ve sweat bullets in the summertime.
I do not identify myself as a motorcyclist. When I was younger, I made my mother let me sit in her lap, and I would park the car in our driveway. Stubborn and maybe reckless, I just love when my adrenaline gets pumping. However, my reasoning behind riding a bike is less adventurous. Frankly, I cannot afford a car. I’m the classic immigrant tale–daughter of a single immigrant trying to make it in America. Having put myself through school, I have to work multiple jobs and find time to be a social human-being.
A couple of years ago I was juggling classes in the morning, work at night, and time with friends whenever possible. I slept as much as I could, read more than I slept, and partied in between. Public transportation supported me through most of my endeavors (it still often does). I value freedom, and I thought my own mode of transportation would give me more freedom. Once that wanderlust became too annoying to ignore, I had to do something. I knew a car was out of the question; I couldn’t handle another bill to pay on top of the gas and insurance. I became more anxious and claustrophobic when often stuck in the hustle and bustle of the various bus lines and train stops, until finally a coworker suggested I ride.
Scrolling through hundreds of Craigslist posts and not coming across any noteworthy, I was about to give up on my new notion of freedom. One of my old bosses found a bike for me. He was living vicariously through me because his wife had barred him from having a bike until their two young daughters are grown. In an act of rebellion, he too scrolled through the endless pages of motorcycles on Craigslist. Not wanting to be completely responsible for feeding my two-wheeled dreams, he sent the link to another coworker. Eventually the link made it my way. A couple emails later, I was headed to a small town to meet a stranger, so I could buy a vehicle I didn’t even know how to turn on. The rest is, how they say, history.
After a weekend crash course and desperately needing to get my motorcycle endorsement in Virginia, I still had no idea what I was doing when I hopped on the back of my bike. I can honestly say that for the first few months I rode a lot like an idiot. I often think how easily I could have thrown myself underneath multiple tires, but I’m still here kicking (knock on wood).
The greatest force I worry about isn’t on the road, though. Typically, I find her in her natural habitat, sitting at the kitchen table, muttering to herself about cleaning. This force of nature is my Greek grandmother. My grandmother, a stern and traditional woman, doesn’t think a girl like me should be riding. I try to explain the motorcycle’s convenience, but she’s worried about my safety (warranted) and how my recklessness isn’t helping me find a steady job; this in turn stunts my womanly responsibilities in the home (unwarranted). My grandmother is excused from such thoughts because she’s old, stubborn, and my grandma. The rest of society is not. That’s not to say that girls cannot or do not ride. There was another girl in my riding class, and I’ve seen plenty out on the road, going on weekend rides with their boyfriends or a group. But I’m annoyed with the social stigma of a girl participating in an activity reserved for the Sons of Anarchy.
I don’t ride to be hit on. I don’t ride to bring attention to myself. I don’t ride for anyone but myself. That being said, I don’t know of another girl who rides to the supermarket in the middle of winter for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and lactose-free milk; just because no one else is doing it, doesn’t mean I can’t do so in peace. With hopes to bring a different perspective, I’m here to answer questions about riding, being a girl, and not giving a fuck.